Month: April 2016

Colchester: A Vision (Part 3)

Part three of Scott Everest’s look at what could be done to help Colchester achieve its tourism potential.

I would like to thank you all for the feedback from the last blog. It is good to see so many people interested in tourism and the potential of Colchester.

In part 3 it would be prudent to see what would happen if we are on the right track, the tipping point to success.

This is obvious as we would start to see street vendors.

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There is nothing in this world smarter than those who can see an opportunity, a good retailer can sniff out an upturn in trade and footfall and take full advantage.

You may gasp in horror as people set up mobile stands to capture tourists in the heaviest footfall sites and it would be viewed by many as both anti-social and akin to begging.

Let me tell you how they do it.

This is taken from a true story from a vendor outside York Minster, whom I interviewed over 15 years ago.

A gentleman named Abid was a refugee who escaped from Afghanistan in the late 1990’s due to being persecuted for being a Christian Convert.

His Father was educated in York University in the 1960’s and upon returning liberated in mind he preached about the tolerance in Britain. In there house pride of place was a Snow Globe and inside was the impressive York Minster.

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Abid loved the snow globe and to him represented a dream to live and prosper in Britain.

To cut a long story short he come to England and headed to the place of his dreams, York.

He found it difficult as first, as anyone would and found himself in a situation of Poverty and living hand to mouth.

Everyday he would visit York Minster, pray inside and just spend hours looking at its splendour. He observed that York was developing and more and more people were visiting.

The boardwalk was very clear and he noticed that not many people were taking gifts home and he wanted everyone to have the same experience as him with a souvenir to cherish.

He spent the next few weeks with blocks of wood that were discarded from a local shop that was being fitted and proceeded to whittle down with a pen knife a 3D image of York Minster.

This took many attempts but slowly and surely he created something that resembled York Minster.

His next step was to create a mould, so he melted down plastic and wrapped around his effigy. This took many attempts until he managed to get a workable mould.

Then with a mixture of mud, old newspapers and boiled sugar water he made a paste and poured into his mould. This with a lot of trial and error ended being successful.

Obviously the item needed to be decorated. He liberated an old tin of emulsion that had around 2 inches of old paint inside, he added water stirred and painted 36 freshly dried casts of York Minster.

The final decoration of all the colours and was a mixture of puddle water, blood, Argos pen ink and sealed with clear nail varnish.

That very next morning Abid with his bed blanket spread outside the thoroughfare of York Minster sold 17 York Minster Souvenirs at £3.00 each.

A business was born, tourists had a souvenir from their trip and Abid was part of what we call an innovator of Tourism based retail.

York is a great example of what Colchester can be and we are on a journey to make this happen.

Abid is what you call an innovator or better term for it is a lone nut. He was out there by himself day after day.

Then people started to notice (early adopters) other likewise minded individuals all started to create and sell there souvenirs all across York.

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You cannot underestimate the power of souvenirs it is a physical reminder of a place visited that when you see it brings back the experience and memory. You purchase for friends and family who also become intrigued to visit the place from where it came.

It took a while but the local shops and the attractions saw an opportunity and became the early majority.

Then everybody saw the opportunity, to get the tourists into the shops they had to offer the same as everyone else. I took a long while but they made it in the end but they were the late majority.

Then there are the laggards or as I like to call them, CAVE dwellers (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) these are the people who said it would never work and created a lot of barriers with some of them in positions of power and influence.

There are lessons to be learnt but we are lucky in Colchester that everyone wants the same thing.

So when you see someone outside Colchester Castle selling a home made souvenir then it is safe to say we are doing something right.

Do not move him on, as I want his story and my picture taken with him as he is an innovator and we need more of them in our town.

As for Abid, it seems he never forgot our meeting and he found me by chance on Facebook in 2005, we chatted and he was still in York but was thinking about moving to London.

I had just started a job as a Hotel Manager in Covent Garden and without hesitation offer him a position to start immediately.

On his first day of work I gave him a snow globe of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

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I really want to buy my daughter a snow globe of Colchester as to me it’s a symbolic of my beliefs around tourism.

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Goverment Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Everest

Captain America: Civil War

It’s been a great week for Colchester 101’s movie critic Andy Oliver at Colchester’s Odeon cinema. Not only did he love The Jungle Book but Captain America: Civil War had exceeded all his expectations.

 

Captain America: Civil War (BBFC 12A)

Captain America

Captain America: Civil War is stuffed.

Stuffed full of action, suspense, great characters, wit, surprises and intelligence. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Christmas dinner: A plate brimming with so many diverse and tasty ingredients that you’re not quite sure it will all fit in your stomach, but satisfyingly does and, a couple of hours of rest later, you’ll want to eat it all over again. It’s everything that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn’t, thankfully, and it might just be the best Marvel movie yet.

Civil War is the culmination of many of the major climactic moments of the Marvel cinematic universe, all those huge ships crashing into the Earth, cities destroyed and innocent lives lost (see Avengers Assemble, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron specifically, but the entire back catalogue – with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy – in one way or another). The movie kicks off with The Avengers in conflict with bad guy Crossbones and his mercenary force who are attempting to steal a bio-weapon from a scientific facility, a conflict that ends with an explosion that kills dozens of innocents and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is indirectly responsible.

For the United Nations, this is the final straw, The Avengers may be saving the world but at what cost? The UN passes a framework motion, The Sokovia Accord, which will see the super team no longer be a private group but rather a UN sanctioned task force. Schisms start to appear in the team as ideological differences begin to appear, first with an argument, then a scuffle, a fight and then all-out war.

Captain America

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot than that. Part of the joy of Civil War is watching the plot develop logically and organically. Everything has its place and every character is serviced by and, in turn, services the story in satisfyingly intelligent fashion. Something you’d be hard-pushed to claim about Zack Snyder’s hero versus hero smack-down, Batman V Superman, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no Jolly Rancher sweeties or jars of pee on show here.

Civil War skilfully demonstrates the long game Marvel has been playing throughout their movies, this is long-form storytelling not only in plotlines but in character arcs, also. Characters make decisions which are not based solely on the situations they are presented with in this movie but in all their previous appearances. Marvel is not resetting these characters at the beginning of each new movie, what went before really matters.

Captain America

Before you begin to think this is just another Avengers movie snuck under a Captain America banner, this is absolutely a Captain America movie. Everything that happens in Civil War revolves around the emotional, intellectual and philosophical hub that is Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), it is his relationship with Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) that provides the heart of the movie. Cap has always seen the world in black and white, but now shades of grey enter his world and he finds himself taking actions that are maybe not right, that are maybe selfish(?). It’s an interesting shade for Chris Evans to play, a new level of self-doubt, a Captain America who allows his emotions to obscure his moral compass.

With his revelation, way back in 2008, that he was Iron Man, it is obvious which side of the ideological argument Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes down on and this is what brings him into conflict with Cap. Iron Man made Downey Jr. a bona fide movie star, but in Civil War he reminds us that before that he was a respected, if troubled, actor and turns in one of the most genuinely nuanced and raw performances of his career. There are new levels of guilt and grief to Tony Stark and Downey Jr. sinks his teeth into the role with zeal and gusto rarely seen in any movie, let alone in a genre viewed by many as throwaway.

Captain America

One of the great triumphs of Civil War is that all of the characters involved are given the time and space to explore their decisions on which side of the divide they will fall. Not only that, but they actually grow. We get to understand more about them and find that they are more than just two-dimensional cut-outs in colourful costumes. From The Vision’s (Paul Bettany) attempts to understand humanity and his part in it to Scarlet Witch exploring her guilt and trying to find a place to belong. The remarkable thing is that not a single character feels superfluous.

Which brings me to the geeky bit: The new introductions to the Marvel Universe, Black Panther and Spider-Man. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is T’Challa, ruler of the African kingdom of Wakanda, location of Iron Man and The Hulk’s battle in Age of Ultron, raised to don the Panther mask as protector of his people. Boseman plays him with not only the innate regal dignity of royalty but with all the grace and poise of the predatory big cat he bears the name of. It’s a great introduction and leaves you eagerly awaiting director Ryan (Creed, Fruitvale Station) Coogler’s Black Panther solo movie next year. Black Panther is a character you’ll definitely want to see more of.

Captain America

Technically, although being a Marvel Comics mainstay and titular character of five movies so far this century, this is Spider-Man’s first appearance in the MCU. Previous iterations of the character (played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) were produced under license by Sony Films and you may feel you know what to expect from him. This is an all new Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland), he’s a lot younger than you have seen so far, he’s a kid finding his way in a very grown up world. By the time he shows up you may worry that he’ll be one character too many, but Holland plays Spidey/Peter Parker to perfection and you’ll be glad he’s there, he’s a lot of fun and provides some great moments.

Captain America

In other hands Civil War could easily fall apart due to the always impending risk of bloat, but in the hands of directors the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeeley moves along at perfect pace and without an ounce of unwanted fat. Some feat that, even at a running time close to two and a half hours, you’ll not feel it has outstayed its welcome (there was no after credits scene in the press screening I attended, Marvel saves these moments for the fans. I know. I sat there for ages waiting for one). Civil War is a spectacle that takes the time to ponder the meaning of responsibility, loyalty, honour, the cost of revenge and the subtle betrayal of opposing ideologies. The action is exhilarating, from the awesome opening that sees the Avengers as a lean, co-operative fighting machine to the grandly operatic airport conflict, which pitches the heroes against one another in a battle-royale that is the closest you’ll come to one of those incredible double page spreads that coloured your childhood.

Captain America: Civil War is a triumph, a truly great action movie that raises the bar for everything that follows and actually manages to make everything that came before even better.

Andy Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Oliver

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for April & May

OUR CLASSICAL MUSIC COLUMNIST LIZ LEATHERDALE, FOUNDER AND OWNER OF COLCHESTER CLASSICS, BRINGS YOU HER PICK OF APRIL AND MAY’S CLASSICAL MUSIC EVENTS IN, AND AROUND, COLCHESTER.

Classics

 

Brahms’ German Requiem
Brahms’ German Requiem is not primarily a Mass for the dead but is rather intended as comfort for those who mourn and who feel pain at the death of others. This beautiful choral work will be heard Saturday 23 April at 3pm in Frinton in Frinton Parish Church performed by the Stour Choral Society plus a selection of songs for St George’s Day.

Tickets: £10 on the door (01206 271291)

The Colchester Waits

The Colchester Waits perform on reproductions of early wind instruments popular in the 15th century. This unique sound, along with dancing from the Colchester Historical Dance group, is on offer at a celebration of music and texts from Shakespeare’s time on Sunday 24 April at 2.30pm in St Andrew’s Church, Marks Tey.

Tickets: £8 on the door

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

The Pimlott Foundation presents ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ with songs, sonnets and scenes associated with the Bard performed by soprano Daniela Bechly, pianist Christiane Behn and actors including Anthony Roberts. Sunday 24 April at 6pm.

Tickets: £10. Old House Barn, Old House Road, Great Horkesley. CO6 4EQ (01206 271291)

The Magic of Music

Also on Sunday 24 April, the Clacton Concert Orchestra presents a concert entitled “The Magic of Music” including both of Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suites, and Gabriel’s Oboe, the haunting and evocative theme by Morricone from the 1986 film The Mission. Sunday 24 April at 3pm in St Bartholomew’s Church, Holland on Sea.

Tickets: £8.00 (01255 223455)

Vivaldi’s Gloria in D

On 30 April Vivaldi’s most famous choral work, his Gloria in D, will be performed in two contrasting performances. The work is popular because of its distinctive rhythms, joyful choral writing, especially for the altos in ‘Domine Fili unigenite’ and bright orchestral accompaniment showcasing the Piccolo Trumpet and Oboe.

The Kelvedon Singers celebrate their 50th anniversary, plus significant birthdays for two long-standing altos, with a concert including the Gloria. This chamber choir, now based in Coggeshall, was founded by the Rev. Peter Elers, then the Vicar of Kelvedon. Other joyous works by Schubert, Britten and Mozart will be performed by the choir and accompanied by a chamber orchestra.

Tickets: £10 – £12 (01376 561719). Saturday 30 April at 7.30pm at St Peter’s ad Vincula, Coggeshall

In contrast with the above, the large University of Essex Choir performs Vivaldi’s Gloria and Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass’ accompanied by the London Mozart Players, no less.

Tickets: £8 – £24. www.universityofessexchoir.org Saturday 30 April at 7pm. Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk

Ashley Grote

The first anniversary series celebrating the renovation of the majestic Edwardian Organ housed in Colchester’s Town Hall begins this month with Ashley Grote (Master of Music at Norwich Cathedral). Thursday, May 26 at 7pm. Moot Hall, Colchester.

Tickets: £15 (01206 272908)

If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at www.colchesterclassics.co.uk and take a minute to watch their company video: 

Liz Leatherdale

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Leatherdale

Colchester: A Vision (Part 2)

Part two of Scott Everest’s look at what could be done to help Colchester achieve its tourism potential.

CastleReduced1

This is the second part to my blog about Tourism in Colchester and was overwhelmed by the reaction and support.

It was heart-warming to see action being taken, with local political manifestos highlighting heritage and the importance of tourism, and the announcement of investment in the Roman Chariot Track.

Everyone has great ideas and all needs to be captured in a professional Destination Marketing Program (DMP) which is both inclusive and apolitical.

To give you an example and benefits of what a vibrant DMP can do we will do a case study on our town’s Unique Selling Point (USP) Colchester Castle.

We need to begin by choosing a medium to measure and for this purpose will use TripAdvisor as it captures sentiment acutely. It also gives us numbers of votes which we can benchmark against each other.

The next steps are to create a list of comparative USP’s and by type (Castles) from other Towns.

The following Castles are as follows;

Colchester Castle, Dover Castle, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Warwick Castle, Skipton Castle, Tintagel Castle & Rochester Castle

The first thing we want to look at is ratings per Castle. This is the volume of people who chose to rate the castle regardless of sentiment of experience.

Colchester Tourism

As you can see Colchester Castle has had the lowest engagement and ratings of all the Castles in our Comparative Set.

This would suggest that the majority of visitors are local or school groups.

The next part of this case study is to look at sentiment, how people felt about the experience. In my industry the focus is to get to 4.5 stars, and you then would be rewarded as such on the website with a certificate of excellence which you can display in the premises.

There is a value of revenue attached to this and in the hotel industry it is worth a minimum 5% extra on rate alone.

Colchester Tourism

It is interesting that Colchester Castle only reached 4 stars and missed out on achieving a certificate of excellence. So let us get a snapshot of what visitors are saying.

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It is clear that no concession for OAPs is a standout issue with price, and reading through the negative verbatim it seems that there is an inclusivity issue.

To give a perspective of balance there are some excellent reviews on the site, the point being that versus any other Castle the level of physical reviews are low.

However the real issue is potential, and want to look at what Colchester could be so will remove the rest of the comparative set and just rank against Leeds Castle.

In 2010 there were 560,000 people who visited Leeds Castle compared with 110,000 from Colchester Castle. This is a huge difference.

Let us be realistic and state that Colchester was to achieve 200,000 visitor numbers, how much would the local economy would have benefited with 90,000 extra visitors.

A look at what one attraction could bring into the community with additional focus of a DMP.

Colchester Castle £
Extra Visitor Numbers per annum 90,000
Average Entrance Cost SPH

(Based on 2 Adult & 2 Child)

6.175
Gifts SPH

(Based on Association of independent Museums average spend)

1.50
Sustenance SPH

(Based on average cost of sandwich v’s families who bring own lunch)

2.31
Parking SPH

(Based on 2 adult & 2 Child on £3.50 per day parking)

0.875
977,400

If you could imagine scaling this up for all the attractions in Colchester then you can see the potential. In essence one attraction alone would bring in close to additional £1 million in revenue alone per annum.

Having a Destination Marketing Plan that everyone is committed to would make a huge difference.

To look at a blue sky scenario, if Colchester Castle reached the same visitor numbers as Leeds Castle, the additional revenue would be worth £4,887,000 per annum.

I would even be so brave to say that Colchester would sell an additional £1 million in ice cream alone in the Summer Months.

If ⅓ of these extra visitors came by train then Greater Abellio would make an additional £13,550,000 in revenue per year.

It is in everyone’s interests for this to happen.

So the next steps would be to take the Destination Marketing Plan seriously, invest in its production and make it apolitical with the development of Colchester in mind.

As someone wise once said ‘A goal without a plan, is just a dream’

Dare we dream Colchester? I plan on it…

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Goverment Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Everest

The Jungle Book

Colchester 101’s very own movie critic Andy Oliver has taken himself along to the town’s Odeon cinema to see Jon Favreau’s live-action/computer-animated fantasy adventure The Jungle Book to bring you this review. We suspect he rather liked it! 

The Jungle Book (BBFC PG)

Jungle Book

For myself and many people of my generation – post-baby boomer/pre-generation X – Disney’s animated classic, The Jungle Book, holds a very special place in our hearts. For many of us it would have been one of our first visits to the cinema and the continually played soundtrack (the Frozen of its day) would have driven many a parent to distraction. With the advent of home video and streaming media The Jungle Book has become an all-timer, one of the most enduring and beloved movies for children of all ages and many will know the songs (written by Richard and Robert Sherman with the exception of the Oscar nominated The Bare Necessities, written by Terry Gilkyson) without ever having seen the movie. The voices of Phil Harris (Baloo), Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera), jazz man Louie Prima (King Louie) and menacingly bass upper-class of George Sanders (Shere Khan) are as familiar to us as many of our own family. It is a movie that has not only stood the test of time but straddled decades; is passed on to subsequent generations like some cherished and beloved heirloom and lights the faces of all who see it (I defy anyone to watch it and still feel morose or miserable after its enchanting 89 minutes are over); and holds a special place in the history of Disney (it was the last project Walt Disney took charge of). So why, one wonders, would that same studio risk millions of dollars on a flashy new version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous story when it is so much more cost effective just to live off the back of one of its classics? And is it possible to create something new and wondrous from a tale everyone knows and loves?

Jungle Book

It is almost impossible to take your seat for director John Favreau’s new adaptation of The Jungle Book without some feelings of trepidation, the feeling that, somehow, this new version will sully your memories and muddy the reputation of one of your first loves. Let me put your fears to rest straight away: The Jungle Book is an absolute joy, a theatrical experience that adds to, rather than subtracts from, your love of the animated classic. It’s like discovering a new perspective of an old friend that makes you realise how deep and rich that person is in ways you’d never thought about before. And, believe me, no one is happier than myself to report this.

In case you didn’t know the story (unlikely), The Jungle Book tells of the adventures of a young boy, Mowgli (played with genuine charm and boyish intelligence by newcomer Neel Sethi) abandoned in the jungles of India, rescued by the avuncular panther, Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) and raised by a wolf pack led by Akela (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) and his mate, Raksha (12 Years A Slave Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o). When the safety of the pack is threatened by the arrival of the damaged and vengeful tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), it is decided that Mowgli should be returned to his own kind. So begins a journey in which the man-cub will meet such diverse and occasionally dangerous characters as the snake, Kaa (voiced here as exotically seductive by Scarlett Johansson rather than the comically sibilant Sterling Holloway), the power hungry King Louie (a giant Orangutan, or rather Gigantopithecus(?), played with Goodfella guile by Christopher Walken) and the blissfully mellow Sloth Bear, Baloo (a perfectly cast Bill Murray). There’s also a wonderful voice cameo by the recently deceased and much missed comedian, Garry Shandling as a porcupine with obvious obsessive compulsive desires.

Jungle Book

Jon Favreau brings fun, wonder, thrills and joy to the table and it’s easy to see why the director of Elf and Iron Man was hired, there are the best elements of both in The Jungle Book. Favreau understands not only that this should be a cinematic event but, also, a children’s tale that even the oldest child will find touches their heart. This could have been a horrible mis-step by trying to bring the movie up to date with darker, more adult themes and action (I’m looking at you, Batman V Superman), but The Jungle Book understands the difference between adventure and action. The set pieces are incredible, such as Mowgli’s escape from Shere Khan during a water buffalo stampede and the climactic forest fire showdown, but there are quiet moments and sequences full of fun and warm humour that stick in the mind just as well.

The script (by Justin Marks) is deceptively simple, what appears to be a straightforward adventure story contains deep and complex themes and motivations especially when it comes to the villains. Railing against those story beats and characters that are dropped from the animated version, such as the “Scouser” vultures, would be petty when there is so much great stuff added such as the Water Truce and the primal, almost force-of-nature significance of the elephants. The Jungle Book breaks the constraints of being a word-for-word remake which allows it to breath freely and this is one of its many strengths.

Jungle Book

Yes, there are a few scary and intense scenes that may not be suitable for pre-school children but that’s a judgement call parents should make, obviously many parents will know better than I what upsets their kids, just a nudge in case your little ones are a touch sensitive.

At times it is hard to believe that the entire film was shot in a warehouse somewhere in Los Angeles and that those aren’t real and really dangerous animals, such is the craftsmanship and technical know-how on show. It’s a beautiful, beautiful film and everything on show is a feast for the eyes and ears. The animals are most definitely animals, rather than anthropomorphised caricatures, they move and behave exactly as animals (despite the fact that they talk, obviously) and take the photo-realism of Life of Pi to the next level. Every one of them is there to move the story forward rather than to dryly showcase the technical know-how of the animators.

Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is a theatrical experience writ large and you’ll want to see it on the largest and best screen available, you don’t want to be watching on your telly in six month’s-time wishing you’d gone to the cinema (I also wonder if the downscaling of the experience will reveal the film’s episodic nature to its detriment). Also, if you choose to watch in 3-D (a tricksy, gimmicky format I’m usually opposed to except for, maybe, Gravity) you’ll experience an incredible depth of field and beauty to the digitally created landscapes rather than the usual stick-poking gags and things flying out of the screen. You’re not looking at a jungle, you’re in a jungle.

If you only visit the cinema once this year, make sure you spend your hard-earned sheckles wisely and go see The Jungle Book. Forget about your worries and your strife.

Andy Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Oliver